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Friday, 13 October 1911

Senator WALKER (New South Wales) . - There are certain items in this Bill which require explanation. For instance, in "the Department of External Affairs, there is an item in connexion with the Northern Territory which reads, " Interest and sinking fund, £55, 000." Perhaps the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs will be good enough to tell us what is the total indebtedness which the Commonwealth is taking over in connexion with the Northern Territory, and what steps are being taken to finance that indebtedness.

Senator McGregor - There was a debt of ^2,700,000, an accrued deficit of ^800,000, and a further sum of £2,200,000 in connexion with the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway.

Senator WALKER -Is the Commonwealth going to take over the debt of theTerritory ?

Senator McGregor - We have to paythe interest upon that debt.

Senator WALKER - But have we not to recognise our obligation to meet the principal upon the due date?

Senator McGregor - We have to meet the interest upon the debt, and to providea sinking fund.

Senator WALKER - I also notice under " Miscellaneous," that no reference is madeto Papua, from which I gather that there is to be no expenditure there during the next two months. I understood that we werespending ,£20,000 a year upon Papua, and consequently I thought that about one-sixth of that amount would appear upon these Estimates. Then in the Department of Home Affairs, under the heading of " GovernorGeneral's Establishment," there isan item which reads " Sydney Government House, £600." Have the Government yet made any arrangement to renew the lease of that establishment, or have they considered the propriety of resuming a portion of the grounds - say 15 acres - upon which to establish a residence for the GovernorGeneral ?

Senator Rae - Why should they ?

Senator McGregor - Does the honorable senator wish to provide a permanent residence for the Governor-General in eachState?

Senator WALKER - I want him to be as well provided with residences as are the Governors of New South Wales, Victoria1, and South Australia.

Senator McGregor - We will provide the Governor-General with a residence at the Federal. Capital.

Senator WALKER - The Federal Capital seems to be slowly dragging its weary length along, and I imagine that it will be quite ten years before we get there.

Senator Rae - Why should the Government maintain a vice-regal residence in Sydney ?

Senator WALKER - Senator Raeis a representative of New South Wales, and his colleagues expect him to stand up for the rights of that State.

Senator Millen - I entertain no such hope.

Senator WALKER - At any rate, he was not sent here to decry the State which elected him. I wish also to know whether the Department of Trade and Customs controls Papua in the matter of quarantine? In the Defence Department, in connexion with the Small Arms Factory, there are contingencies for which £2,000 is provided. Does that amount cover the cost of preparing residences for the staff? I happened to be in Lithgow a few weeks back, and the train by which I travelled was met by 200 or 300 people in the belief that a very important person would arrive by it. I see that he has since arrived and had a very hearty reception. I think his name is Dixon. I understand that the vote of £2,000 for contingencies is to cover residences for the staff, and I should like to say that there is a school there capable of accommodating about sixty people, which would be available on reasonable terms if required by the Department. I desire to ask the Minister what steps have been taken to finance the building of our ships in the Mother Country. The amount must run into £1, 000, 000, and there is no reference to the matter in this Bill, unless some instalment is provided for in the vote of £250,000 for advance to the Treasurer.

Senator McGregor - Does the honorable senator not recollect that we put £960.000 into a trust fund for this purpose at the end of last year, and that £250,000 was out into the same trust fund before.

Senator WALKER - But have we not to pay some amounts upon account as the work progresses?

Senator McGregor - Could they not he paid out of the fund to which I refer? Does not the honorable senator recollect, also, that at the same time we put about £900,000 into a fund for old-age pensions ?

Senator WALKER - I know that, by something which approached very near to tiddly- winking, the State I represent did not get what she was entitled to on that account.

Senator Rae - I did not hear the honorable senator stand up for his State.

Senator WALKER - I did, indeed, many times, and long before the honorable senator entered the Senate.

Senator Rae - I was referring to last . year.

Senator WALKER - I referred to the matter last year also. I pointed out that, under the Constitution, the States were entitled to so much, and that the fixed payment of 25s. per head should not have commenced on the 1st July of last year, but on the 1st January this year. .

Senator Rae - Was not that in accordance with the agreement arrived at at the Premiers' Conference?

Senator WALKER - It was not right to evade the provisions of the Constitution in that way. I am glad to hear that something is to be done to provide premises for the High Commissioner in London, and 1 should like to know whether it has been decided to secure the Strand site. Senator Millen made a very trite remark with regard to the Northern Territory, and I am going to make a suggestion which, I think, will bring the matter prominently before us. Would it not be well to have a special session of this Parliament at Port Darwin? That would enable us to better realize our responsibilities, in view of what is taking place at the present time in the north of Africa. We know that a certain Power has seized Tripoli, and what is there 1o prevent some Power seizing the Northern Territory without giving us any notice ?

Senator Findley - The honorable senator should not raise imaginary difficulties.

Senator WALKER - I wish to see the Northern Territory populated. I do not think We properly realize our responsibilities in this connexion. I think we might have a special session up there.

Senator McGregor - We could try it on the Opposition.

Senator WALKER - With regard to the Federal Capital, I desire to emphasize what Senator Millen has already said. It really looks as if the Government were playing ducks and drakes with that question. We had hoped that an opportunity would be afforded to the best experts available to assist us in establishing here one of the finest capital cities iri the world. Yet, apparently, the Government are prepared to discourage the very best men from sending in plans for the city, since they do not know what Board will be appointed to judge their work. Much as one may respect the present Minister of Home Affairs, he is not exactly an Admirable Crichton. I am not aware that he can claim to be an architect, engineer, surveyor, and capitalist combined. I know that he has said that if he had been presented with £1,000.000 to manage the Commonwealth, we should now have been the richer ; but I think it is likely that we should have been £999,999 19s. 11d. the poorer. I do not wish to waste time in the discussion of this Bill; and, speaking asI have done on the first reading, I shall probably not have much to say when the items of the schedule are under consideration in Committee.

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